Q: Greg ... I wanted to let you know of the many cars I've owned in 60 years, you brought to my attention my favorite of all of them, the 1949-50 Olds Rocket 88.
Q: Greg, I enjoy your "Cars We Remember" in the Coldwater, Mich., Daily Reporter. I wanted to let you know of the many cars I've owned in 60 years, you brought to my attention my favorite of all of them, the 1949-50 Olds Rocket 88.
As a young high school grad, I was set on buying a 1950 Ford or Chevy Coupe. The local dealers had what I wanted but wouldn't budge on a deal. They were around $1,800, which I felt was too much.
After a few weeks, I stumbled into an Oldsmobile dealer. At that time, every guy would have loved a convertible, and this dealer had a leftover '49 Olds 88 convertible. He also had a 1950 Olds 88 Business Coupe, and I chose the Business Coupe with the Rocket V8 for $200 less than the other dealers.
I knew nothing about cars and my 88 had things like a heater, radio and clock. It also came with an automatic transmission, which I was mocked for because at the time manual transmissions were in all the "hot cars." After about six months of people mocking my car, I challenged a guy who was tearing up the streets wit his 1950 Packard Clipper. Well, that Clipper saw nothing but the rear taillights of my Rocket 88 and for the next three years - I ruled the road and never lost a drag race.
The enclosed is a picture of my Rocket 88 from 1950. The performance was great, and it was a fun car. My next car would be a 1953 Super 88 convertible, but that '50 Rocket 88 Business Coupe was the best ever.
Thanks for your columns, William Avery, Union City, Mich.
A: William, thanks so much for your great nostalgic letter, the photo and your kind words. You indeed had the industry's first ever muscle car in that '50 Rocket 88, and the Business Coupe was the lightest of the bunch, helping it go even faster than the other Oldsmobiles of the era. The 88 enjoyed great success on the track, too, winning six of nine NASCAR races in 1949. The Olds marketing group then utilized a new advertising slogan "Make a Date with a Rocket 88" in 1950. Additionally, perhaps the first ever rock and roll song was based on your Oldmoblie, called "Rocket 88" and performed by Ike Turner's "Kings of Rythym" in March of 1951.
The 88 nomenclature was successfully used by Olds for models like the Delmont, Delta, Dynamic, Jetstar, Starfire, Holiday, Fiesta, Super, Celebrity, and Royale. The badge was numerical until “Eighty Eight” was spelled out beginning in 1989.
Thanks much for your letter.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes readers comments on auto nostalgia, favorite cars and old-time motorsports at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or at email@example.com.